Litton: It’s not a legal obligation, but I have an ethical one

Time 3:37 pm, April 11, 2011

I think the recent signing of legal whizz Lucy is a great coup for Car Dealer. As proven in Big Mike’s column last month, we are frequently bombarded with legal challenges as a result of selling cars.

This is nothing new – cars are mechanical items and while you rarely see the rust or engine failures of 30 years ago, we are now facing electrical issues that would make the guys at Apple cry. Couple this with the litigious nature of our culture today and ‘how to get money back’ type guides all over the internet and it often makes you wonder why we bother at all.

However, like Big Mike, I am a proper dealer. I do not fear the law. When I have an issue with a car I fix it. Simple. If the car is out of the warranty period or the claim is for something which is deemed wear and tear, I make a contribution. I don’t have to, but whether or not I have a legal obligation to the car, I still have an ethical one.

‘I have yet to fall out with any of the hundreds of customers we have sold cars to’

I have yet to fall out with any of the hundreds of customers we have sold cars to in just over three years. This has to do with the way we prepare cars as much as anything.

When I signed off my first approved used car check as a sales manager for BMW, there were a number of advisory items. ‘Do them,’ I said to the workshop controller. ‘Crikey, the last bloke would have left them all,’ he replied. I could never understand this. Why mortgage the future for the sake of a few quid today?

In some perverse way I welcome problems – albeit the small and cheap to repair ones – as it gives me a chance to demonstrate how competent and professional we are. It may seem like crappy corporate speak but there is no greater opportunity for a customer to become an ‘advocate’ of the business than when you have demonstrated effective problem management.

littonThere are times when my solutions do not meet the expectations of the customer. I can’t give money back at the first sign of trouble. I cannot cover every item on a car with 80k which costs just £3k. In the same way that the law is designed to protect consumers, it is also there to protect us as dealers.

Who is James Litton?

James runs He’s been in the business for 12 years and always has something to say about the industry he loves.

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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